Matcha Shortbread Cookies Recipe

A friend of mine was just admitted to the traditional French cooking program I attended four years ago (read all about it here and here), and the good news got me thinking about a type of cookie we learned to make in class as we approached the holidays, called sablés diamant.

These “diamond cookies” are classic butter cookies that you form using my favorite technique, referred to in English as slice-and-bake, in which you shape the dough into a log and slice it into simple rounds. I remember being surprised to see this method taught as part of the official culinary repertoire, because I’ve always thought of it as a home-style shortcut (as opposed to spreading the dough and cutting it into shapes with a cookie cutter), and not one that’s particularly widespread in French households, either.

You will roll the log of dough in sugar before slicing, so that the edges of the finished cookies are prettily dotted with sugar crystals that sparkle like a hundred diamonds if you are blessed with a fervent imagination.

In any case, the true reason why it’s used for these sablés diamant is not so much to save time as to make the diamond thing happen: the recipe has you roll the log in sugar before slicing, so that the edges of the finished cookies are prettily dotted with sugar crystals that sparkle like a hundred diamonds if you are blessed with a fervent imagination.

In addition to the visual appeal, this produces an ideal texture, the cookie tender and crumbly, its flanks offering a distinctly crunchy note. I decided to use the same idea to make matcha* shortbread cookies.

I used confectioner’s sugar and ground almonds in the dough itself to make it extra smooth on the tongue, the better to highlight the contrast between center and rim. And I blended in a moderate dose of green tea powder: just enough to give the sablés a delicate grassy flavor without overpowering the round notes of butter and almond.

* Matcha is a fine powder made by grinding green tea leaves; it can be purchased from Japanse grocery stores, and from good tea shops.

~~~

One last thing: I will be participating in a live Q&A session on the Times Online website this Wednesday, October 7 at 1pm GMT (London time). If your time zone and schedule allow it, please join in!

Update: The live Q&A session on the Times Online website is over, but you can still view the exchange.

Matcha Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Makes about 20 cookies.

Matcha Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Ingredients

  • 100 grams (7 tablespoons) good-quality butter, softened (I use semi-salted butter; if you use unsalted, add 1/4 teaspoon sea salt)
  • 50 grams (6 tablespoons) confectioner's sugar
  • 1 egg yolk (see note)
  • 90 grams (3/4 cup) flour
  • 40 grams (6 tablespoons) finely ground almonds (a.k.a. almond meal or poudre d'amande; look for it at natural food stores)
  • 2 teaspoons matcha (green tea powder)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, preferably an unrefined cane sugar in coarse crystals, such as turbinado or demerara

Instructions

  1. In a medium mixing-bowl, cream together the butter and confectioner's sugar with a spatula. Add the egg yolk and mix it in thoroughly.
  2. In another bowl, combine the flour, ground almonds, and matcha, and stir with a whisk to remove any lump. Add to the first bowl and stir it in until the mixture comes together to form a ball; don't overwork the dough. Roll it into a log with a circular or square section (see note), about 4-cm (1 1/2-inch) in width. Wrap in cling film and place in the freezer to firm up for 40 minutes (or in the fridge for 2 hours).
  3. Preheat the oven to 180° C (360° F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the sugar on a plate and roll the log in it to coat on all sides, pressing it down a bit into the sugar if necessary. Using a sharp knife, cut the log into 1-cm (2/5-inch) slices and arrange on the prepared baking sheet; the cookies will spread just a touch.
  4. Slip into the oven and bake for 12 minutes, or until the cookies just begin to turn golden at the edges. Let rest for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Notes

  • You can freeze the unused egg white and save it until you have enough to make one of these recipes.
  • To form a log with a square section, start by forming a regular log with a round section. Place it on a work surface, and press down on it with a small cutting-board to just flatten the top and bottom. Roll it by a quarter of a turn, and repeat to get two more flat sides.

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  • http://bowlofmush.blogspot.com/ ABowlOfMush

    These looks gorgeous!
    I love what matcha does to everything!
    These look so dainty.

  • http://www.laptopmemo.com Stefan Etienne

    This looks like a good cookie recipe, that can be eaten with something else – let’s say ice cream?!?

  • http://howsweet.wordpress.com/ Jessica @ How Sweet It Is

    I love the color of these. I have matcha powder that I’ve never used. I will definitely be trying!

  • http://www.cleacuisine.fr Clea

    Ils ont l’air parfaits. En tout cas, ta description met vraiment l’eau à la bouche !

  • http://www.fromsingletomarried.com Tabitha (From Single to Married)

    I love your site because you use ingredients that I’ve not heard of before like matcha – definitely will have to try these!

  • Barbara

    Those are certainly interesting looking. I thought for a minute (until I read the recipe and discovered what matcha was) that you had used pistachio flour. Which I just ordered to make a cake with. Now I’ll have to look around my tea shops for matcha!

  • http://scratch.typepad.com Rachel

    Clotilde! These look lovely. I love the matcha spin on the sables, as well as the use of confectioners sugar and ground nuts. I can hear the snap of the first bite now. I too adore icebox/refridgerator cookies – and despite their convenience, they look sophisticated, and I think they often benefit from being made ahead and chilled, much like David Leite’s chocolate chip cookies.
    These sables reminded me of these Pistachio Cranberry Icebox cookies from Gourmet*, also rolled in square log with coarse sugar. They are delicious and beautiful as well, studded with green and red. I think they might go nicely with matcha. Or maybe that would be too much?
    *Wah.

  • http://onegirlonehouse.wordpress.com audrey

    Wow! What a wonderful idea for showcasing the bitter yet exquisite taste of matcha! I love it when Japanese and French traditions fuse. I think their contrasting flavors compliment each other in unexpected and refreshing ways. Japanese bakeries in Japan do routinely adopt French traditional pastries but put their own spin on it with traditional Japanese ingredients like matcha. I think you’ll enjoy exploring this part of Japanese cuisine on your trip to Japan.

  • http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com/around-the-world/paris/ Kitchen Butterfly

    Lovely….see, yesterday I made Matcha (from G. Detou) wholewheat pancakes for dinner – middle of the road I must admit.These look more promising. Seeing as I still have Matcha left, I’ll try them!

  • http://www.estouest.blog.lemonde.fr est

    looks really good! lovely colour

  • http://www.demetermade.com Demeter Made

    These look lovely. I’ve never used Matcha before, I’ll have to try it.

  • MumbaiDubaiUSA

    Would be fun to add food color to the sugar crystals that you roll the log in. Hmm, what color goes well with matcha green?

  • http://www.dandysugar.com lisa

    What a unique shortbread flavor. I love the color that matcha powder gives baked goods. These would go well in a holiday gift basket.

  • http://balancefood.blogspot.com Chou

    I saw a lot of shortbread at the fancy food show this summer–and matcha was my favorite of all. So pretty . . . thanks or sharing your formula.

  • Joan

    Matcha! There’s a wondrous tea shop in The Strand Arcade in Sydney..will drop by and Matcha Shortbread Cookies here I come…

    The Q&A sounds fun..’twill be midnight in Australia..what a lovely thing to do at midnight..

    When in France I fell in love with sables..the texture and the sound of the word..

  • http://arugulove.wordpress.com arugulove

    These look incredible. I am very weird in that I do not like the taste of green tea, but I love anything green tea flavored.

  • Rachel

    These look and sound absolutely gorgeous. I seem to have already been appointed official baker to my department, so these are going on my to-try list right away!

  • http://gastrogeek.wordpress.com gastrogeek

    These look sublime, I love matcha, in fact I’m drinking a cup right now! It was such a pleasure to meet you yesterday.

  • crystalsiyi

    wow,undoutedly,they must taste gorgeous.
    I love the idea of official baker.
    Wonderful!Love it!

  • http://www.beckygrant.net Becky Grant

    I would kill for a handful of these right now. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Alexandra

    These look exquisite! What grade of matcha did you use?

  • Lisa

    This will sound nuts, but do you find that cooking with matcha keeps you awake? I love green tea ice cream, but I cannot eat it past two in the afternoon because it keeps me up at night if I do. I would love to bake something with matcha but I’m afraid the caffeine will bother me. Is it less strong in baked goods than it is in ice cream?

  • sillygirl

    Wouldn’t these look great with pink sugar edges!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Alexandra – I’m not exactly sure. It is definitely usucha (the thin kind) and the brand is Hamasa Shoten but I don’t know much beyond that.

    Lisa – I imagine that if you’re very sensitive to caffeine, you might sense the effect of these cookies, too, but I’ve never experienced it myself — I should note that I usually eat just a couple at a time, and in the afternoon rather than dinnertime.

  • http://firefliesofhope.com Gwendolyn

    I enjoyed reading your live Q&A session with TimesOnline. The book you edited and updated (I Know How to Cook) sounds very compelling to try, especially since it has been such a staple on the cookbook shelves of French kitchens for decades. BTW, I’m glad you removed that banana salad recipe!

  • http://www.theteachercooks.com The Teacher Cooks

    Beautiful cookies. Can’t wait until Wednesday. I will join in.

  • http://veggietestdrive.blogspot.com/ Christine

    I’m terribly excited to make these! I made beautiful, mellow-green matcha cupcakes for sale in the bakery, and no one purchased any. Are green sweets reserved for special holidays only? No, I say, and I look forward to testing my theory yet again.

  • http://www.theediblelibrary.com Meg

    Matcha is one of my favorite flavours in baked goods… it goes so well with chocolate, too.
    I believe the caffeine in matcha is thought to be absorbed by the body more slowly than in coffee or regular tea, so it can keep you ‘energized’ for a long time.
    I’ll have to try making these soon!

  • Maria S

    I love matcha flavoring in sweets: the moochi balls, the ice cream, the Korean pastries we get here in Los Angeles.
    I can’t wait to try these.

    YUM!

  • Madelyn at Paris Perfect Apartments

    Clotilde, Was on for your Times Online interview yesterday and enjoyed it. The questions were coming in fast and furious — you must have been exhausted typing fast enough to keep up! Thanks for mentioning the Warm Hokkaido Squash salad, the weather has put me in the mood. And of course the brownies. What did you answer about the recipe that most scares the English? Funny how the English are still defensive about their cooking skills. Thanks again!

  • http://onceuponathyme.wordpress.com/ Andrew

    Interesting!

    I’d never heard of this green tea powder before so thanks – always love discovering new ingredients to play with!

  • Jessica

    Those cookies look scrumptious! I tried to do something like that with cupcakes, but I didn’t have matcha on hand, so they were more of an olive green color. For those, I’d really have to splurge–they look exquisite in the photos.

    Is there anything you can use as a substitute for ground almonds? My brother, unfortunately, is allergic to tree nuts and I’d hate to deny him any more treats!

  • jennifer

    if I want to make the butter cookies sans matcha, can I just not put that in, or do I need to increase another ingredient to compensate? Thanks… this will be my weekend project, maybe without the matcha if I can’t find it today !

  • http://www.thepeachkitchen.com peachkins

    I love matcha!! its brilliant to use them for shortbread cookies..

  • Kay

    Does matcha keep well or does it go stale? I’m wondering if I should try your lovely cookies with what I have or do I need to buy fresh. I’ve never used what I bought once for a similar recipe.

  • http://www.cocoandme.com Tamami

    Hi Clotilde! i read the live Q&A transcript! Wow, nice one!
    - You mentioned Christian Constant & his hot chocolate! – I’ll make sure I go there next time!
    - I once went there a couple of years ago to try his banana & chocolate tart, because I heard that it is named Sonia Rykiel because she liked it!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Jessica – You could omit the ground almonds and up the amount of butter (say, by 2 tablespoons) and flour (about 4 tablespoons). Note that I haven’t tested this substitution, so you may have to adjust it slightly depending on the consistency of the dough when you mix it, but this is how I would go about it.

    Jennifer – You can omit the matcha and replace it with the flavoring of your choice — vanilla extract or citrus zest for instance.

    Kay – I believe that matcha doesn’t so much go stale as fade, so if your matcha is a bit old, you may need a little more for the flavor to come through.

  • http://thewholegang.org Diane-The WHOLE Gang

    These cookies look and sound so good. I wish I could eat them. They would not last long. Thank you for sharing the back story on the cookies. Love that.

  • http://www.retete-slabit.net Retete de slabit

    Matcha.. hmm, what is it?… Love tha cake bou i dont know what matcha is :(

  • http://www.whatareyoufeedingyourkidsthesedays.com Gaelle@whatareyoufeedingyourkidsthesedays.com

    Oh what a great idea! I was at a tea shop the other day and looked at the Matcha jar, thinking how I could possibly use it (in addition to drinking a cup or two)… Now I have another excuse to go back. The tea lady and my family will be REALLY happy! Merci!

  • http://somethingsdishy.blogspot.com Something’s Dishy

    That look delish! I love green tea with anything!

  • Rachel in Australia

    I made these last weekend, and they were perfect, and much admired. I had the family chase up some matcha, as I live in the country, and rolled them in coffee crystals, which were lovely and crunchy. I also tried making my own matcha, as I have a tea camellia bush, but the colour wasn’t right (olive green), so I’ll have to perfect my technique. Has anyone made matcha successfully?

  • http://www.ztastylife.com/ amelia

    love the color, and I imagine the taste is somewhat bittersweet

  • http://whatjuliaate.blogspot.com Julia

    So creative! I love matcha, and I love shortbread, so I am all over this. Shortbread loves all sorts of weird things done to them. Green and sparkly is a stellar move!

  • Jacqueline

    That’s amazing! It really did make exactly 20 cookies! Um, they’re delicious and stuff too, but I really am quite impressed that the yield was exactly as given, that never seems to happen for me…

  • http://www.myspace.com/issasg Isa

    I made this today and it turned out really well! Everyone’s enjoying them. Using unsalted butter, I did find however that 1/4 tsp sea salt was a wee bit much, so it might be good to cut down slightly on that. Maybe 1/5 tsp would be good. :) Definitely trying this again, hopefully soon.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  • http://realityindreams.deviantart.com realityindreams

    i have a question, why is your final product so much greener…?

    my product is more like brownish green. T_T

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Realityindreams – I think the color depends on the freshness of your matcha powder — the fresher the greener — and also you need to monitor the baking and stop just when the edges are starting to turn golden. The more they bake, the browner they’ll get.

  • Liza

    Hi Clotilde,
    This is a very cute recipe, and I couldn’t keep myself from not trying. I really like the delicate taste of these shortbreads! However the shape they come out of the over is a bit weird. I tried making them with a square section, like you said. And so they look when they’re going into the oven. But when they come out, the bottom is wider than the top — they don’t keep the elegant square shape at all. Would you have an idea why it could be happening? Thanks!

  • Dawn

    I would like to know if there would be a difference if I use cake flour instead of all purpose flour? Thanks.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      In this case, it’s fine to use cake flour instead of all purpose. Happy baking!

  • atesca

    I made a batch today. Ate half of them in one take, gave the rest to a pregnant friend. Oh they’re heavenly. Thank you so much!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Sorry I didn’t respond earlier, but as your friend probably knows, pregnant women should go easy on the caffeine, and matcha powder contains some, so she should make sure to account for that. I remember not being able to sleep at all after eating a green tea kit-kat one night in Japan. :)

  • http://teaandsweet.wordpress.com/ Melanie

    I thought it was only too fitting to be baking matcha shortbread in my tiny apartment here in Japan :) Now in they go to a little box, and with me to work tomorrow for friends at the local kindergarten! The almond meal gives them the most sublime lightness–if only there might be some left over!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Happy to hear you had good success with those cookies! I hope your friends liked them.

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